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Policy Research

Research and methods of policymaking to reduce and prevent homelessness

Research on Homelessness in Albuquerque

The City of Albuquerque uses data and systems analyses to help shape policy. Read studies written or commissioned by the City of Albuquerque to understand the needs of our homeless services, behavioral health, and affordable housing systems.  

Changing the Story of Albuquerque's Homelessness and Behavioral Health Crisis system (City of ABQ, 2019 report)

Homelessness touches many lives in Albuquerque. Each year, an estimated 5,615 households experience homelessness, and each person brings a story– a behavioral health challenge, a lifechanging crisis, or economic hardship. Albuquerque hosts an array of effective services, but that system of services is fragmented and difficult to access, particularly for those struggling with substance abuse and mental illness. As a result, many of the most vulnerable people in our community who experience homelessness are not able to obtain the immediate or long-term help they need. Some of the most vulnerable and most visible people who experience homelessness in our community are those who struggle with mental illness, substance use disorders, and/or medical issues. In the absence of a response system suited to these recurring needs, our community defaults to a reliance on police, firefighters, emergency rooms and the jail. It is neither sensible nor sustainable to continue this expensive practice that strains public safety resources and does not resolve the underlying issues. Mayor Keller has identified a set of high impact solutions that address people’s immediate need for safety and dignity when they experience homelessness, and can help people obtain the housing and support they need to exit homelessness permanently.

Changing the Story - Complete report

Assessing Shelter Capacity (Barbara Poppe and Associates, 2019 Report)

Increases in Albuquerque’s homeless population and their greater visibility has increased dialogue among policy makers, services providers, and the public as to how to best address this issue. As part of this process, the City of Albuquerque has commissioned this report, in which we examine shelter capacity and present recommendations on ways to align the need for emergency shelter with the available supply. As the need for emergency shelter is contingent on the number of persons who enter and exit shelters, we use a basic systems approach that focuses on shelter capacity as well as on dynamics that impact the flows of people into and out of homelessness. The homeless population is heterogenous, and different groups among the homeless population access different shelter facilities and programs. Given this, we look at overall shelter system capacity for four key subgroups among the homeless population: single adults (i.e., people in households without children), family households (households containing one or more
adults and children), unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults (up to age 24), and veterans of the armed forces. Each of these subgroups has particular shelter, housing and service needs, and there are services that specifically target each of these subpopulations.

We make the following recommendations along with our assessments for expanding shelter capacity:

  • Initiate a concerted campaign to reduce and ultimately end chronic homelessness. If this subpopulation is not addressed, its continued growth will make disproportionate use shelter and other services as individuals and families indefinitely languish in a homeless state.
  • Increase the supply of permanent supportive housing to target people and families who are designated chronically homeless, as well as others who are deemed longstaying, disabled and/or vulnerable.
  • Increase the availability of other forms of permanent housing that benefit other segments of the homeless population, and in particular rapid rehousing resources.
  • Implement diversion practices, with “one-shot” financial assistance when needed, as a regular feature of a variety of homeless services, including shelter intakes.
  • Make existing and new shelters more amenable to people seeking shelter by facilitating geographic access, implementing as full a range of low-barrier features as possible, creating culturally accommodating features (particularly for Native Americans), and using outreach to engage unsheltered persons with housing and services.
  • Adopt a single point of entry structure to centralize and better manage entry into the family shelter system.
  • Explore ways to further reduce Albuquerque’s homeless veteran population.
  • Implement procedures to monitor system performance and impact on the homeless population.

Assessing Shelter Capacity Report

Assessing Shelter Capacity Presentation

Homeless Coordinating Council Coordinated Housing and Services Framework

In August 2020, the City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and University of New Mexico entered into an agreement to convene a Homeless Coordinating Council. The mission of the Homeless Coordinating Council is to combine the respective knowledge and expertise from these three
entities, in order to develop enduring and comprehensive solutions to homelessness. The Council agreed to develop and present to the community, within 60 days of the Council’s formation, a “coordinated community-wide framework of services and housing that advance solutions to the challenge” of homelessness.

To create the coordinated framework of services and housing, the Homeless Coordinating Council established five Committees. Each Committee was charged with identifying gaps/needs and high impact strategies within its core focus areas: services, facilities, street outreach, affordable housing
and youth housing. The high impact strategies identified in the following pages are aggressive and ambitious, but also practical and feasible for our community to implement. For some strategies, there is already sufficient expertise and capacity in our community – from government institutions, the University of New Mexico, or community partners – for full implementation. However, other high impact strategies will require our community to strengthen and expand existing capacity and expertise before these strategies can be fully implemented

HCC Coordinated Housing and Services Framework

Albuquerque Affordable Housing and Homelessness Needs Assessment (Urban Institute, 2020)

In many cities, renters with extremely low incomes (at or below 30 percent of area median income) struggle to find affordable housing. These renters can end up living in units whose rents are beyond their means or become homeless, living in shelters, motels, on the streets, or doubled up with family and friends. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the number of renters with extremely low incomes increased from 2010 to 2016, while the supply of affordable rental units dwindled. We conducted a needs assessment for the City of Albuquerque to create a road map for reversing those trends. To understand the scope of Albuquerque’s affordable housing issues, we estimated gaps in affordable housing using American Community Survey data. We also interviewed 23 stakeholders—including government officials, developers, service providers, and people who have experienced homelessness—to hear their perspectives and their recommendations for addressing affordable housing issues in the city.

The following are the main findings of our analysis of housing needs in Albuquerque:

  • The supply of rental units affordable to renter households with extremely low incomes is shrinking. From 2006–10 to 2012–16, the number of rental units increased by about 8,400, but the number of rental units affordable to renter households with extremely low incomes decreased by 700 (from 7,600 to 6,900).
  • The number of renter households with extremely low incomes is increasing. In 2012–16, 22,300 renter households had extremely low incomes, a 9 percent increase from 2006–10. Households with extremely low incomes made up about 1 in 4 renter households.
  • More than 40 percent of rental units affordable to households with extremely low incomes are occupied by households with higher incomes. Of the 6,900 rental units affordable to renter households with extremely low incomes, about 3,000 (43 percent) are occupied by
    renters with higher incomes.
  • 9 in 10 renter households with extremely low incomes are rent-burdened. This includes 82 percent of households whose monthly rent is more than half their monthly income.
  • More than 4,700 assisted units could lose their subsidies by 2030. Although 300 new assisted housing units are expected to come online soon, nearly 3,000 may require intervention in the next five years to maintain their affordability, with an additional 1,700 between 2026 and
  • An estimated 2,200 Albuquerque households need permanent supportive housing. We produced this estimate using the number of individuals who were experiencing chronic homelessness from the 2019 point-in-time count, coordinated entry assessment data, and local estimates of individuals not previously known to the homeless system.

Our analysis indicates that the city also has a gap of about 15,500 units of affordable housing for renter households with extremely low incomes and a gap of nearly 800 units of rapid rehousing for people experiencing homelessness. 

In addition, the city needs to take steps to increase the pipeline of market-rate and affordable rental units and to preserve and expand affordable units with deep subsidies for renters with extremely low incomes.

How Can Albuquerque Increase Affordable Housing and Reduce Homelessness - Fact Sheet

Albuquerque Affordable Housing and Homelessness Needs Assessment - Complete study

Medical Respite Community Needs Assessment (2019 report)

People who experience homelessness are likely to be sicker and have a more difficult time recovering from injury or illness. Access to resources and support to follow a treatment plan, or to have a place to rest and eat regular, healthy meals is out of reach for them without intervention by our medical and social services institutions. Medical respite programs have developed around the country and in Albuquerque to try to address the needs of persons experiencing homelessness and who have medical needs. The Respite Care Providers’ Network (RCPN) defines medical respite care as “acute and post-acute medical care for patients experiencing homelessness who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury while living in shelter or on the streets, but who are not sick enough to be in a hospital”.

Medical respite often implies that some combination of medical treatment services, transportation, behavioral health and social services case management, including connection to housing, is also available to the person for a short-term period. In spite of decades of federal funding to support services for persons experiencing homelessness and to address the challenges in providing access to appropriate health care services for indigent people, however, there remains no dedicated funding stream for medical respite services. This means that the models and arrangements to provide an appropriate care setting for this population are as diverse and varied as the communities and cities across the country where they have been developed.

Homeless services organizations in Albuquerque formed a work group in March 2017 to organize a community needs assessment to understand perspectives and potential for advancing our medical respite service system. Some questions the group sought to answer were, for example, “How well does the current system support the medical respite needs of the homeless community?”, “where do opportunities exist to engage others in planning and financing medical respite services?’, and “how do we move toward meeting national voluntary medical respite standards?”

Five core themes emerged from the community needs assessment:

  • Engage a broader group of stakeholders
  • Promote comprehensive care transitions
  • Improve data collection, tracking, and shared reporting
  • Diversify financial support for system improvement and growth
  • Medical respite must center on linkages to Permanent Housing

Medical Respite Community Needs Assessment - full report